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Louise Harrison

St Helens

I’m the local policing commander for St Helens. Heart of Glass contacted us to tell us that they were working in the community and to see if we would be prepared to meet with them. I was more than happy to do that; anything that involves getting communities to work together is a good thing.

We started working with Heart of Glass and an artist called Mark on a community project that is looking at cohesion through the generations. At the same time we were looking at measures to tackle an ongoing anti social behaviour problem in the town centre involving young people. We could see that a lot of these young people were probably a little bit disenfranchised, weren’t engaging with the police, but were actually really good kids, who just wanting to do their skateboarding. We’d looked at a number of interventions, but they were probably more punitive measures in terms of moving them on, dispersal orders, things like that. Then the opportunity came up to bid for some Proceeds of Crime Act funding. So I thought, what a great idea to put some money back into the community and get a long term solution for the skateboarders. Because we were already doing that work with Heart of Glass, they agreed to come on board. 

Heart of Glass have really widened the project out. Whereas we were just thinking: OK, we could try and get a small area where young people can go and skate and do their thing; Heart of Glass have transformed our thinking by saying: let’s do something creative with a piece of space that we can widen out to the community and not just to the skateboarders. It’s been really positive and I’m really, really excited about it. The skaters are really engaged with the whole idea of it. We got some of our staff involved, so the public and the communities have got to see the human side of policing: the fact that behind the uniform is just a normal working person who’s got the same issues as a lot of other people have – that’s the bit for me that’s been invaluable really. The other thing that’s really nice is that it challenges people’s assumptions. A lot of people think that going to art galleries is just a privilege for those who live in a different area and have money, but actually it shows that people from all walks of life appreciate and love arts, and can appreciate the use of space.

I’ve always had a real interest in and love of art, but I’d never actually thought about using art in the way that we’re doing it now. Never using space like this. Never using it for a crime and disorder purpose. It’s really interesting to see how you can marry the two together. There’s certainly been a lot of learning for me. It would be lovely to be able to encourage this way of thinking not just in St Helens but in other areas as well.

Photo: Stephen King